November 17, 2020 by Cathy Stack
When attending a prior school, they had the opportunity to engage with senior citizens who shared the school’s cafeteria space. They soon formed unlikely friendships with the seniors. The sisters enjoyed listening to the senior’s captivating stories. When the girls moved away, they found themselves missing the entertaining interaction with the lively seniors. This void motivated them to start their own program that would enable them and others their age to enjoy intergenerational friendships.
The sisters started the program in 2019, the summer before their senior year. The program lasted throughout the summer and until the COVID-19 shutdown. During that summer, they would spend hours, at least once or twice per week with a group of seniors. They spent their time bonding over lunch, and mastering card games such as Rummikub. While playing cards, the group discussed various topics such as current events and shared unique perspectives per their different generation viewpoints. They discussed the girls’ future as well as the seniors’ past.
One senior stood out in the group named Margaret. The sisters described Margaret as a fiercely competitive rummy player who always cracked jokes while rocking her bright yellow crocs. The twins were won over by her quirky personality and warm heart. Margaret shared intriguing stories about her past working in the FBI, raising a family and her journey to self-discovery.
When the pandemic restrictions started, it halted in-person visits but did not end the twins’ and Margaret’s connection. The girls still interacted with Margaret via phone or on park visits with masks on. With Margaret’s help the twins came up with the creative idea to plan a socially distanced parking lot prom.
Margaret conveyed that these new friendships have made her feel noticed again. She highlighted a growing problem that many seniors unfortunately face today. They often experience the unsettling feeling of gradually fading away from sight. They feel invisible when they walk down the street, struggle with their grocery carts, or sit in a park. They are often passed by without as much as a glance. Margaret said she now has regained faith in the younger generation to recognize and appreciate older generations.
Margaret sent the sisters a poignant letter, thanking them for their attention and friendship. She also relayed her gratitude for their thoughtful gesture of bringing their school’s journalism club to interview the seniors. The opportunity had a rejuvenating effect on the seniors knowing that their legacy was going to be recognized and their fascinating stories told.
Jenevieve and Jordan were recently invited to do a TED talk on the importance of intergenerational friendships/connections. Jordan pointed out during the discussion that our society tends to isolate age groups and reinforce ageist stereotypes which result in missed connections and unnecessary generational division. When explaining the program’s importance, the sisters stressed how crucial it is that all segments of society feel respected, appreciated, valued and supported in order to have a healthy community.
Jordan said, “In the biggest period of isolation the world has seen in over a hundred years, we realized the importance of human connection more than ever before.” In a time when connection seemed all but lost, they were creating a meaningful and enlightening one. The sisters stressed how important it is to gain insights for our future from past generations. Seniors can be a tremendous resource and be the younger generation’s greatest teachers. They can offer unique advice and wisdom on how to effectively overcome life adversities based on a lifetime of experience. The youth can then build upon the seniors’ lifelong lessons to march forward to a better world.
The sisters would like to see an end to the trend of the diminishing value of our senior’s thoughts and opinions. Through life experiences, older people have learned what to value. The sisters realized what seniors know as a certainty, that in the end it’s the people we have shared memories and formed human connections with that we remember the most.
The twins encourage other young students to join a similar program to connect with the senior community. It could simply mean becoming a pen pal with a senior during the pandemic. The experience can offer both the student and senior, a unique and transformative connection as it did for them. The sisters once confided to their mother that they now recognized joy as the gift you receive when you focus on someone else and realize you are making a positive difference in their life. The girls now want to inspire other young people to experience that joy.
PassItOn would like to celebrate Jenevieve and Jordan for their heroic efforts in forming the Senior to Senior Program that benefit seniors as well as the community. They both exemplify the value of connection. Please help us honor these inspiring teens by sharing their heartwarming story of the importance of forming generational friendships which make us feel connected to not only one another but to the past and to the future.
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